Sunday, 29 August 2010

English Defence League supporters attack police at Bradford rally

EDL supporters and police clash in Bradford. Photograph: John Giles/PA

Hundreds of far-right activists, including BNP members and football thugs, throw bricks, bottles and smoke bombs in battle with more than 1,600 officers

Matthew Taylor and Martin Wainwright, Saturday 28 August 2010

Far-right activists threw smoke bombs and missiles and fought with the police as trouble flared during a protest organised by the English Defence League.

Bricks, bottles and smoke bombs were thrown at anti-racism supporters and police as around 700 EDL activists – including known football hooligans and BNP members – held a "static protest" in Bradford city centre. Mounted officers and others in riot gear were attacked as they pushed the EDL into a penned area. Skirmishes continued as EDL speakers addressed the crowd and there was more violence as its supporters were put back on coaches.

More than 1,600 officers from 13 forces were involved in the police operation amid fears that the demonstration would descend into violence. Police said there had been five arrests.

The EDL, which has held demonstrations in towns and cities across the country over the past 12 months, had predicted that thousands of its supporters would turn out in Bradford for what was dubbed "the big one", but police said there were around 700 people.

Earlier in the afternoon coachloads of EDL activists had chanted "Allah, Allah, who the fuck is Allah?" and "Muslim bombers off our streets".

The EDL claims to be a peaceful, non-racist organisation opposed only to "militant Islam".

One of the coach drivers said: "I didn't expect a job like this when I came to work this morning. We're a five-star firm. We don't usually take scumbags like these."

Thousands of anti-racists and local residents joined counter-protests and events organised around the city. Mohammed Khan, 29, said: "We want to show the people of the UK that Bradford is a united and peaceful place, where Asians, white people – everyone – gets along. Nobody here wants these people. They are just trying to divide this city and provoke trouble."

Several hundred people, including David Ward, the local Liberal Democrat MP, gathered at a community celebration at Infirmary Fields near Manningham, where running battles between youths and police took place in 2001. "Everyone wanted to join in to tell people how good this city is," said Surhra Bibi from Bradford's Fairbank Road.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Poor families bear brunt of coalition's austerity drive

George Osborne's budget described as 'clearly regressive' by respected fiscal thinktank

Larry Elliott, Vikram Dodd and Andrew Sparrow
The Guardian, Wednesday 25 August 2010

George Osborne's budget 'hit the poorest households more than those in the upper middle of the income distribution in cash, let alone percentage, terms', said the Institute for Fiscal Studies. Photograph: Rex Features

Britain's leading independent tax experts today flatly rejected the coalition government's claims to have shielded poor families from five years of austerity when they described George Osborne's emergency budget as "clearly regressive".

In a direct challenge to Treasury claims that the package of spending cuts and tax increases announced in June was fair, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said in a report that welfare cuts meant working families on the lowest incomes – particularly those with children – were the biggest losers.

The IFS said it had always been sceptical about Osborne's claim that the budget was "progressive" but added that this instant judgment had been reinforced by a study of proposed changes to housing benefit, disability allowances and tax credits due to come in between now and 2015.

Passing judgment that is likely to make uncomfortable reading for the Liberal Democrats, the IFS concluded: "Once all of the benefit cuts are considered, the tax and benefit changes announced in the emergency budget are clearly regressive as, on average, they hit the poorest households more than those in the upper middle of the income distribution in cash, let alone percentage, terms."

Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem leader, has argued that the budget represented "progressive austerity" by sparing the poorest families from the brunt of the attack on the UK's record peacetime deficit.

Alistair Darling, the shadow chancellor, said: "Just last week George Osborne told us that his budget was fair. But it's decisions, not warm words, that count. Today there's conclusive evidence that far from being fair the coalition has hit the poorest hardest, especially those with children.

"While Nick Clegg is in charge he would do well to ask himself what he thinks he's doing providing cover for this old-fashioned Tory budget."

An Osborne aide said: "We will take no lectures on fairness from a party that, for example, failed to meet its targets on child poverty and did not restore the pension-earnings link."

The Treasury said last night that it still considered the budget to be progressive despite the IFS assessment. "The government does not accept the IFS analysis," said a spokesman. "It is selective, ignoring the pro-growth and employment effects of budget measures such as helping households move from benefits into work, and reductions in corporation tax.

"It is essential that policy is informed by transparent analysis. That's why we stand full-square behind our budget analysis which is based on what can accurately and completely be measured."

The IFS said the poorest 10% of families would lose over 5% of their income as a result of the budget compared with a loss of less than 1% for non-pensioner households without children in the richest 10% of households. It added that the budget contrasted with the "progressive" plans for 2010-14 inherited from Labour, under which the richest 10% of households bore the brunt of the cuts.

Ed Balls, the shadow children's secretary, said: "So much for the Tory-Lib Dem coalition's promise to be a family-friendly government. It is hard to think of any government in the history of our welfare state that has hit children and poor families so heavily and so fast.

"While Labour's budgets saw hundreds of thousands of children lifted out of poverty, this Tory-Lib Dem budget will see the poorest families with children lose more than any other group. This report is the final nail in the coffin for George Osborne's claims to have delivered anything but the most regressive budget in a generation."

Fiona Weir, a spokeswoman for the End Child Poverty campaign, which commissioned the report, said: "The coalition has committed to ending child poverty by 2020, but its cuts are hitting the poorest families hardest. It's not fair that children should have to pay for the cuts and shocking that the poorest families are bearing the brunt.

"The coalition must reconsider its cuts, including changes to housing benefit and uprating benefits. The spending review will need to show clearly how the government will deliver on the commitment to ending child poverty, ensuring that cuts fall on those most able to pay."

The IFS said: "Low-income households of working age lose the most as a proportion of income from the tax and benefit reforms announced in the emergency budget. Those who lose the least are households of working age without children in the upper half of the income distribution. They do not lose out from cuts in welfare spending, and they are the biggest beneficiaries from the increase in the income tax personal allowance."

On the Today programme this morning Mark Hoban, the financial secretary to the Treasury, rejected the IFS claims and insisted that the budget was progressive.

"Some of this analysis is quite selective," Hoban said. "They've made some fairly challenging assumptions about the impact of some of the welfare reforms."

With housing benefit cut, some claimants would choose to move into cheaper accommodation, Hoban said.

Osborne's budget is also facing a legal challenge over claims it may break equalities laws.

The Guardian has learned that the government has so far failed to answer whether it carried out an assessment as required by law, showing it had considered whether women, ethnic minorities, the disabled and the elderly would be disproportionately affected by the cuts.

The Fawcett Society has filed a legal challenge and the government was supposed to respond by Monday. It has asked for more time before lawyers acting on its behalf send a reply. Sources say the equalities impact assessment, as required by the Equalities Act of 2010, has not yet been carried out.

In his Today programme interview, Hoban was asked at least four times whether the Treasury had carried out the distributional analysis as required under the Equalities Act of 2010. He said the Treasury had done a "very detailed distributional analysis", but he refused to say whether this included the equalities impact assessment.

Earlier this month a leaked letter from Theresa May, the home secretary and equalities minister, revealed she had warned Osborne that cuts in the budget could widen inequality in Britain and ran a "real risk" of breaking the law.

May wrote "there are real risks" that people ranging from ethnic minorities to women, to the disabled and the old, would be "disproportionately affected".

Anna Bird, the head of policy and campaigns at the Fawcett Society said: "Under equality laws, the government should have assessed whether its budget proposals would increase or reduce inequality between women and men.

"It is our belief that the Treasury did not do this, and so did not follow the law when drawing up their plans. Their continued failure to produce any evidence showing they considered the gender equality impact of the budget only adds weight to this concern."

Hitler 'had Jewish and African roots', DNA tests show

Adolf Hitler is likely to have had Jewish and African roots, DNA tests have shown.

By Heidi Blake
Published: 6:25AM BST 24 Aug 2010

Adolf Hitler may have had Jewish and African roots, DNA tests have shown Saliva samples taken from 39 relatives of the Nazi leader show he may have had biological links to the “subhuman” races that he tried to exterminate during the Holocaust.

Jean-Paul Mulders, a Belgian journalist, and Marc Vermeeren, a historian, tracked down the Fuhrer’s relatives, including an Austrian farmer who was his cousin, earlier this year.

A chromosome called Haplogroup E1b1b1 which showed up in their samples is rare in Western Europe and is most commonly found in the Berbers of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, as well as among Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews.

"One can from this postulate that Hitler was related to people whom he despised," Mr Mulders wrote in the Belgian magazine, Knack.

Haplogroup E1b1b1, which accounts for approximately 18 to 20 per cent of Ashkenazi and 8.6 per cent to 30 per cent of Sephardic Y-chromosomes, appears to be one of the major founding lineages of the Jewish population.

Knack, which published the findings, says the DNA was tested under stringent laboratory conditions.

"This is a surprising result," said Ronny Decorte, a genetic specialist at the Catholic University of Leuven.

"The affair is fascinating if one compares it with the conception of the world of the Nazis, in which race and blood was central.

“Hitler's concern over his descent was not unjustified. He was apparently not "pure" or ‘Ayran’.”

It is not the first time that historians have suggested Hitler had Jewish ancestry.

His father, Alois, is thought to have been the illegitimate offspring of a maid called Maria Schickelgruber and a 19-year-old Jewish man called Frankenberger.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Real IRA's lust for violence matters more than ideology on the streets

Dissident Republican terror groups have the potential to offer an outlet for those who feel left behind by the peace process

o Eamonn McCann
o The Observer, Sunday 22 August 2010
o Article history

Men hold the Irish flag in front of burn Nationalist rioters hold the Irish flag in front of burning cars during disorder in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast in July. Photograph: Stephen Wilson/AFP/Getty Images

"Up the Republic!" rose the cry from supporters of Gary Donnelly on Friday afternoon after the leading member of the 32 County Sovereignty Movement emerged from Derry courthouse having being granted bail on charges relating to two Real IRA pipe bomb attacks and a punishment shooting in the city in September last year.

The 32CSM is widely regarded as the political wing of the "Reals". Along with the Continuity IRA and Óglaigh na hÉireann, they constitute the "republican dissidents" whose activities generate alarm and derision in equal measure from the political and media mainstream.

The dissident groups are small, with perhaps 300 activists between them, and have little open support, even in the working-class Catholic estates from which they tend to operate. They are commonly dismissed as "micro-groups" or criminal gangs without political coherence, embarked on a cruel and futile adventure.

At the same time, they are taken deadly seriously, not just because of their readiness to deploy violence without noticeable regard for innocent life, but also on account of their plausible claim on the republican tradition and their potential to provide an outlet for the generalised anger of many who feel left behind by the peace process.

Donnelly can reasonably argue that if the Reals and other dissidents have little support, so it was for the Provos in earlier days. Anyway, the Provos never claimed legitimacy on the basis of popular support but by reference to the mandate of history.

Their allegiance was to the republic declared at Easter 1916. The dissidents have not budged from this position, whereas the Provos, they argue, abandoned the republic when they exchanged their Armalites for Armani and took executive positions at Stormont.

In the new era of shared power and Sinn Féin leaders striding the world stage with aplomb, the dissidents' perspective may seem parochial begrudgery or fanciful nonsense, or both. But in strict ideological terms – objectively, we might say – it's hard to deny they have a point. This doesn't mean they are right. It does mean that if they are wrong, then so were the Provos during the years of the armed struggle, which speakers at Sinn Fein commemorations continue to extol as the noblest enterprise under the sun. It is this consideration that can make Gerry Adams's regular, ringing denunciations of the Reals seem shifty.

Three weeks ago, the Real IRA hijacked a taxi in Derry, packed it with home-made explosive and ordered the driver at gunpoint to leave it outside the Police Service of Northern Ireland station on Strand Road, where it exploded, causing extensive damage to nearby buildings which was still being cleared up yesterday. Local media were deluged with furious condemnation. Nobody, it seemed, had a good or even middling word for the perpetrators of the attack.

But you didn't have to go far to hear mention of Patsy Gillespie. A kitchen worker at a British army base on Strand Road and a father of five, he had been kidnapped from his home late at night and his family held hostage while IRA men chained him to the steering column of a van with a bomb in the back and ordered him to drive it to a military checkpoint at Coshquin on the outskirts of the city where the bomb was detonated, killing five soldiers. Gillespie's body was irrecoverable. That was in 1990, the year secretary of state Peter Brook authorised the talks with the IRA that were to lead to the Good Friday negotiations.

Some of those able to mention Gillespie in sotto voce defence of the Reals' proxy-bombing were not born at the time of the Coshquin incident. They are likely to be the children of the poorest in a city with the accolade of UK City of Culture. If there has been a peace dividend, it has passed them by.

Job losses, cutbacks and welfare "reform" mean that the future promises more of the same, or worse. They are unlikely to rally to the arcane philosophy at the core of dissident republicanism. But they might be lured along the road to nowhere by the thought that at least the likes of Gary Donnelly are still fighting.

Irish terror groups target Conservative party conference in Birmingham

• Republican dissidents see attack as 'top prize' on hit list
• Tory MP Patrick Mercer says threat to mainland is 'worrying'

• Republican dissidents see attack as 'top prize' on hit list
• Mark Townsend and Toby Helm

Irish republican dissident groups are targeting the Conservative party conference this autumn, raising fears of a repeat of the 1984 Brighton attack that nearly killed the then prime minister, Margaret Thatcher.

Sources in Northern Ireland said that the October conference in central Birmingham had emerged as the prize target on a hit list drawn up by resurgent republican paramilitaries. Patrick Mercer, ex-chairman of the Commons subcommittee on counter-terrorism, said former senior police and army intelligence officers had informed him that dissident splinter groups had discussed targeting David Cameron's first conference as prime minister.

He said: "They want to kill by the end of August in order to get themselves poised for whatever operations they can mount in September leading up to the Tory party conference in early October. There are doubts over whether they have the capability, but the aspiration is certainly there and West Midlands police would be crazy not to take the threat seriously." The West Midlands force confirmed it was aware of increased activity by dissident republicans and said its counter-terrorism unit was constantly assessing the threat ahead of the Conservative party conference.

Last night Owen Paterson, the Northern Ireland secretary, said the government was monitoring the situation, and insisted there was now "unprecedented co-ordination" between the security services and police responsible for tracking those responsible. "We have made a substantial number of arrests and we are bearing down on them," he said. "But we do not underestimate the threat they represent."

Laurence Robertson, the Conservative chairman of the Northern Ireland affairs select committee, said suggestions that dissidents could target the mainland were "extremely worrying". "So far it has been contained to the province but whether it is there or on the mainland it is very worrying. We hope it is not yet another chapter but it could be and it has to be dealt with."

Robertson said his committee would question Paterson about the threat level and co-ordination between police and the intelligence services when it met on 8 September. Security for the Tory conference is likely to be raised.

Mercer, whose army career included nine tours in Northern Ireland, said his police and army contacts had strong intelligence on republican dissident activity and he was sceptical whether the groups would be able to mount a spectacular mainland strike. Police have already briefed businesses in the vicinity of the conference, to be held in the city's Hyatt Regency hotel from 3 to 6 September. It will be the first held while the Tories were in government since 1996.

Over the past 18 months, a series of incidents have alerted security forces to a growing threat from republican splinter groups. A week ago three girls were injured in Lurgan, Co Armagh, when a bomb placed in a rubbish bin exploded. A police spokesman said: "Given the increase in terrorist activity in Northern Ireland, it's important to remind people that the threat from dissident republicans exists and should not be discounted."

The Provisional IRA came close to killing several cabinet ministers when they bombed the Grand Hotel in Brighton in October 1984. The blast devastated the Conservative party conference venue killing five people, including Conservative MP Sir Anthony Berry.

The PIRA last bombed mainland Britain in 1996, targeting the London Docklands and later devastating Manchester city centre. Experts believe that veteran bomb-makers from the Provisional IRA are helping splinter groups to carry out the recent wave of attacks in Northern Ireland.

Sources for West Midlands police said they had no intelligence of a specific threat against the Tory party conference.

Mercer said that there was increasing concern over dissident republicans operating under the banner Óglaigh na hÉireann, which roughly translates as Soldiers of Ireland. "They are quite small but they are the lot who are going to do the most damage in the future. They are relatively well-equipped. They have new commercial explosive and have got the bomb-making expertise."

The group has been linked to factions within the Real IRA who planted devices in London at the turn of the millennium, and militants who fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the headquarters of MI6 in 2000.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Sarkozy's Roma Crackdown Likened to WWII Roundups

Dana Kennedy
Contributor AOL NEWS

AOL News NICE, France (Aug. 17) -- French President Nicolas Sarkozy, accused of pandering to conservatives by ordering a crackdown on illegal Roma encampments, is now under attack from some in his own party concerned that the initiative is tarnishing France's international image.

A poll conducted for the daily Le Figaro on Aug. 6 found that 79 percent of French favored the crackdown, but resistance appears to be growing as images of the police actions flash across France's television screens.

French Immigration Minister Eric Besson went on RTL Radio today to ask people to stop using the term "roundup" -- les rafles in French -- to refer to the current action, because it recalls the treatment of Jews and Roma, or Gypsies, during World War II.

Members of the Roma community were forced out of their camp of Hanul, in Saint Denis, north of Paris on July 6. Critics have likened the crackdown on such encampments to the roundup of Jews during World War II.
Besson said Sarkozy is not out to stigmatize the Roma people, but merely trying to cut down on crime. Police have broken up some 40 encampments and squats in the past two weeks and have vowed to dismantle a total of 300 through October. The crackdown targets not just Roma, but also more numerous so-called "travelers" of French nationality.

Besson's remarks came just two days before France is expected to deport the first of an estimated 700 Roma to Romania and Bulgaria by air on Thursday. The second flight is scheduled to take place Aug. 26, French and Bulgarian news outlets today reported Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux as saying.

Besson's comments came after Jean-Pierre Grand, a deputy in Sarkozy's Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), compared Sarkozy's decision to dismantle the illegal Gypsy camps to France's crackdown on Jews during the Vichy administration during World War II.

In his criticism of Sarkozy on Saturday, Grand used the loaded term "roundups."

Grand, an ally of Sarkozy's arch-enemy, former Prime Minister Dominique Villepin, also called the widely broadcast video of Roma camps being broken up "disgraceful." Another UMP deputy, Bernard Debre, took to the pages of Le Monde today to warn against "taking shortcuts" in immigration policy.

"It wouldn't be correct to link everything: integration, religion, terrorism and foreigners coming to France. There are French terrorists, there are French criminals," he wrote. "It's clear that we need a reasonable immigration policy and integration policy."

Francois Goulard, who served in Jacques Chirac's cabinet, called Sarkozy's edict "shocking," Le Parisien newspaper reported Monday, characterizing it as a "smokescreen" meant to advance Sarkozy's own political agenda and win him some badly needed support as he continues to slip in the polls.

Robert Kushen, the executive director of the European Roma Rights Center in New York, told AOL News today that the comments comparing Sarkozy's Roma policies to what happened during World War II are accurate.

"The last time France deported people based on their ethnicity was during World War II, when they sent 75,000 Jews to their death," Kushen said. "Policy that denigrates a group of people because of their ethnic background frequently leads to violence against them and others."

The Socialist opposition has expressed its disapproval of the government policy, but some see its response as muted in the face of popular approval for the measures.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Half the Sky: how the trafficking of women today is on a par with genocide

The authors of a new book, Half the Sky, say the slavery and abuse of women is the greatest moral outrage of our century

Ed Pilkington The Guardian, Thursday 19 August 2010

Nicholas Kristof is not the kind of person you would expect to be a slave owner. As a columnist on that most august of newspapers, the New York Times, he belongs to an elite within an elite, the embodiment of journalistic seriousness. Yet there he was, in 2004, blithely forking out $150 (£96) for Srey Neth and $203 for another teenager, Srey Momm; handing over the money to a brothel keeper in exchange for a receipt and complete dispensation to do with the two girls as he would. Nick Kristof: double Pulitzer prize winner, bestselling author, slave owner. But that, as is made clear in his new book, written with his wife Sheryl WuDunn, is just the start of it.

At the time of his purchase, Kristof had been travelling to a wild and dangerous part of north-western Cambodia, and had checked into an $8-a-night hotel-cum-brothel in the town of Poipet. He arranged to see Neth, who had been in the brothel for a month, having been sold to its owner by her own cousin. Thin and fragile, she had no idea how old she was, but looked to Kristof about 14. Her virginity had been auctioned to a Thai casino manager who later died of Aids, and now she was on offer to local punters at a premium price by dint of her youth and light skin.

Kristof arranged to buy her, as well as Momm from a different brothel. Momm was a frail girl further down the line of misery, having been forced into prostitution five years previously. Amid floods of tears and rage, she pleaded with Kristof to be bought, freed and taken back to her village on the other side of Cambodia. He took both girls back to their villages and, with the help of an American charity, attempted to ease them back into society.

The story of Neth and Momm is just a small indication of the lengths Kristof and WuDunn are prepared to go to expose the injustices that they see in the modern world. Buying up child prostitutes is pretty extreme, but no more than the message they are seeking to deliver in their groundbreaking book, Half the Sky.

In it, they argue that the world is in the grip of a massive moral outrage no less egregious in scale or in the intensity of despair than the African slave trade of the 18th and 19th centuries or the genocides of the 20th. They believe this outrage is a key factor behind many of the most pressing economic and political issues today, from famine in Africa to Islamist terrorism and climate change. Yet they say the phenomenon is largely hidden, invisible to most of us and passing relatively unreported. At worst it is actively tolerated; at best it is ignored.

The fodder of this latterday trade in human suffering is not African people, but women. Which is why they call it "gendercide". If the supreme moral challenge of the 19th century was slavery, and of the 20th century the fight against totalitarianism, then, they write, "in this century the paramount moral challenge will be the struggle for gender equality in the developing world".

The contention is as startling as the idea of a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist buying up prostitutes. I put it to them that, to some people, the claim will seem overblown. After all, you don't go lightly comparing the plight of women in developing countries today with slavery or, by implication, the Holocaust.

"This idea is a couple of decades in gestation," Kristof says. "Over those years, we reluctantly came to the conclusion that this really is the greatest moral challenge of this century."

A 16-year-old Cambodian girl hides after being rescued from a brothel were she was forced to work. Photograph: Rob Elliott/AFP Then WuDunn chimes in: "When you hear that 60 to 100 million females are missing in the current population, we thought that number compares in the scope and size. And then you compare the slave trade at its peek in the 1780s, when there were 80,000 slaves transported from Africa to the New World, and you see there are now 10 times that amount of women trafficked across international borders, so you start to think you are talking about comparable weight."

Their disturbing conclusion seems all the more powerful for being reached at the end of what they call a "journey of awakening", which began in such different places. Kristof is the product of the west coast who grew up on a sheep and cherry farm in Oregon, the son of liberal academics. WuDunn is east coast-cum-Orient; a third-generation Chinese American formed through the fusion of her family's Chinese roots and the urbanity of New York City.

The hotch-potch of influences is reflected in their suburban New York home where we meet, a large house set in its own thick greenery in an area of real estate where residents are surely more familiar with hedge funds and stock fluctuations than fistulas or honour killings. It feels a little incongruous, the horror of what we're discussing amid the tranquility of the setting. But the gulf is lessened by the fact that they have surrounded themselves with mementoes of their many travels: African wooden dolls, Asian carvings and a large box bed from China covered in furs that fills the living room.

WuDunn and Kristof date the start of their journey to Tiananmen Square, which they covered for the New York Times, having been sent to China by the paper as a young married couple shortly before the 1989 protests erupted (they won a joint Pulitzer for their troubles). "We were horrified by what we saw in Tiananmen," WuDunn says. "But then we went roaming in the countryside a year or two afterwards and started finding all this stuff we had never heard about: the infanticide, with 30 million baby girls missing in the Chinese population."

They realised with a jolt that, every week, as many infant girls were dying in China through lack of access to health care as the up-to-800 protesters who died in Tiananmen. Kristof received a further shock in 1996 when he came face-to-face with girls being trafficked for sex in Cambodia. "I went to a village outside Phnom Penh where a very young teenage girl was having her virginity auctioned. Instead of helping her, the police were there to ensure that, if she escaped, she would be returned to her owners. The main difference from 19th-century slavery was that all these girls would be dead of Aids by their twenties. I was really shaken by how open it was, how blatant. It wasn't underground slavery, it was like what a cutting plantation would have been 150 years earlier."

The discovery of such horrendous abuse got them wondering about the nature of the journalism they were engaged in. Here they were, along with the rest of the "serious" press, debating weighty geopolitical issues of the day. Yet this huge injustice was going on under their noses, largely unreported, dismissed as "women's issues" by the mainstream media. "We've thought a lot about the failure to see this," says WuDunn. "Partly, it's because the news is defined by what happens on a particular day, and a lot of the most important things in the world don't happen on a particular day . . ."

"And it's partly that our definition of what constitutes news is a legacy of the perspective of middle-aged men," adds Kristof. "It may well be that one major reason why high-school girls drop out of school around the world is that they have trouble managing menstruation, and probably one reason nobody has cottoned on to this is that people who run aid organisations and write about it have never menstruated."

Gradually, they began to see this great global disaster more clearly, discovering that, every year, at least two million girls worldwide disappear because of discrimination. They began to investigate and chronicle its various forms, from sexual slavery to honour killings of women deemed to have disgraced the family, to rape as an extension of war, to genital mutilation, to the less violent but no less damaging exclusion of women from health services and education. They widened their net from China to India, Korea, Japan and then Africa.

Runa, 20, a prostitute in Bangladesh. The scar on her face was made by her pimp. Photograph: Sven Torfinn/Panos "Over the years we began to think about the thread between all of this," WuDunn says. "We realised there was a societal attitude that doesn't allow women to be active members of society, that doesn't treat them like human beings. That's the link: the disregard of women as human beings."

The dawning recognition that they were confronted by nothing less than a modern form of global slavery, with women as its victims, has had profound personal and professional implications for them both. Above all, it has demanded a rethinking of the function of their writing. If you are convinced you have stumbled across an enormous moral outrage, you cannot merely cast light on the subject. You have to do something to stop it. You have to effect change.

That is what makes their book – named after the Chinese saying that women hold up half the sky – so unusual, not just in its searing and heart-rending contents but in its steely determination and sense of purpose. As the Washington Post's reviewer put it, this is a "call to arms, a call for help, a call for contributions, but also a call for volunteers".

From the opening pages, WuDunn and Kristof make an unashamed pitch for the reader's support and engagement. No on-the-one-hand-this and on-the-other-hand-that. "We hope to recruit you," the authors write, "to join an incipient movement to emancipate women . . . Just open your heart and join in."

At the end of the book, in similar vein, they give a list of action points that readers can take within 10 minutes to make a difference. And they set us a personal challenge: will we join a historical movement to eradicate sex slavery, honour killings and acid attacks, or are we content to remain detached bystanders? It is the 21st-century equivalent of that ultimately probing 20th-century question: "What did you do in the war, Daddy?"

The ambition to inspire us to action, to foment what they call a modern abolitionist movement, informs every page of the book. It's not just evident in the direct appeals they make to readers; it is also subliminally present in the way they manage their information. Specifically, they wanted to avoid a numbing effect where readers would become so overwhelmed by the grimness and apparent hopelessness of the lives women lead that they would sink into depression, rather than leap into action.

So WuDunn and Kristof studied psychological papers on what gels people to participate, and discovered that statistics are particularly bad as motivational tools. By contrast, focus on individuals is key. In one experiment, research subjects were told to donate $5 to alleviate world hunger. They were offered the choice of giving the money to Rokia, a girl in Mali aged seven, or to reduce hunger among 21 million Africans. Most chose Rokia. In another study, people were asked to give $300,000 to fight cancer. One group was told the money would save the life of a single child, another that it would save eight children. Perversely, people gave almost twice as much to save just one child rather than eight.

The authors have followed the lessons of these psychological studies They do have statistics in the book, many of which are harrowing. The equivalent of five jumbo jets' worth of women die in labour each day. Every 10 seconds a girl somewhere in the world is pinned down, her legs pulled apart and a part of her genitals cut off, mainly without anaesthetic.

But because the studies warn of the perils, they keep numbers in their place, and instead focus on individual stories. Such as that of Mukhtar Mai, who grew up in a peasant village in southern Punjab and was gang-raped as a child by members of a higher-status local clan. After that she was expected to commit suicide – that's what women who have been gang-raped do. Instead, she went to the police, and with the $8,300 she received in compensation set up a village school.

Or Sunitha Krishnan, who stands just four-and-a-half-feet tall but who has become a legendary fighter in the war against sex trafficking. She set up an organisation in Hyderabad called Prajwala that has helped some 1,500 women escape from prostitution and into new careers such as carpentry or welding.

As well as focusing on the personal, the authors relentlessly accentuate the positive; constantly firing out examples where terrible wrongs have been overcome, proving that seemingly immutable problems can be shifted. The most powerful case for WuDunn is also the most personal: her grandmother's feet were bound in the rural village where her family originates, yet today feet binding in China is unknown. "I'm so conscious of how lucky I am there was a movement in China and abroad that put a stop to a practice that was centuries old." The authors also remind us that genital mutilation was practised regularly in England until the 1860s. It too was eradicated.

"The research stresses the importance of the positive," says Kristof. "People want to be part of something that is successful, and that's one reason why, even though a lot of the stories we profile plumb some really desperate moments, we also try and show it is possible to make a difference. We don't want to sound manipulative – but we do want readers to care about these issues. We followed research in terms of writing in a way that would engage people, and Half the Sky was a kind of experiment in trying to use these approaches to reach a broader audience. From that regard, I think it worked remarkably."

More than 300,000 copies have been sold in the US, a four-hour public broadcasting TV documentary is in the works, and a videogame version of the book will be launched in an attempt to reach a younger audience. More importantly, the authors' call to arms has been heard, with people across the US who first engaged with Half the Sky through reading groups transforming their networks into mini-aid organisations, raising money and making contact with projects abroad. Some 580 book clubs, with 6,500 members, signed up to a Half the Sky project organised by the global aid agency Mercy Corps that raised $20,000. Beyond the money, book club members held speaking engagements, wrote to elected officials, placed opinion pieces in the local paper, and generally caused a stir that in turn inspired others to get involved.

Kristof and WuDunn hand me a letter. "I have a strong passion for helping women," writes its female author. "After reading your book, I decided to take my passion and turn it into my life. I travelled to Uganda, where I saw first-hand how difficult life is for those living in extreme poverty."

And here's one from a woman in Ohio: "After reading your book I felt I had to do something, so I enlisted the members of my water aerobics class at the Cleveland Racquet Club. We now have $640 to foster girls' education." And another from Saratoga Springs: "This year, for the holidays, I gave 25 copies of your book Half the Sky. The result has been the enthusiastic desire of a group of us to establish a multi-generational women's giving circle."

It's the kind of feedback any author or publisher would die for. "I think it's truly taking off," Kristof says.

As for his slaves, it hasn't been easy for them. Momm slid back into prostitution to feed the methamphetamine addiction she had already acquired when Kristof "bought" her. But she eventually became free for a second time following a government crackdown on brothels, and married one of her customers. In 2008, Kristof went to Cambodia to see her again. She called herself a housewife, and said she had left her old life behind for ever.

Neth had her troubles too. She was diagnosed with HIV and thought her life was over, but found medical treatment and also eventually married and had a son. When Kristof last saw her, she told him she planned to set up a hairdressing salon. She said she would name it after him.

Half the Sky: How to Change the World by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn is published by Virago, price £12.99. To order a copy for £10.99 with free UK p&p go to or call 0330 333 6846

The Jewish Division

Monday, 16 August 2010 13:00

By Gilad Atzmon

I guess it shouldn’t take us by surprise that the Israeli flag has become a common feature at the ultra nationalist English Defence League's (EDL) demonstrations and gatherings.

The EDL calls for taking action against the "Islamization of Britain" and “Muslim fundamentalists”. It is a magnet for extremist right-wing activists and is driven by xenophobia and ethno centrism. Recently the organisation gained an ‘important’ addition to its coalition of hatred. It is called the "The EDL Jewish division." According to the Jewish Chronicle “hundreds of (Jewish) followers” joined immediately. Supporters include an ex-Community Security Trust volunteer who claims "a lot of Jewish guys want to get stuck in". Another follower wrote on Facebook "we are all Shayetet 13", the barbarian Israeli Navy commando unit that was directly responsible for the massacre and executions on the Mavi Marmara. It is also notable that this Jewish bloodthirsty ‘patriot’ didn’t say ‘we are all SAS, British Navy or RAF’. He for some reason preferred to affiliate himself with a foreign Navy, a Navy unit that fights Jewish wars rather than so-called British ones.

I guess that the English Defence League's leaders are not aware of the fact that their ‘Jewish Division’ is there to exploit the new organization.

Roberta Moore, a prominent persona within the Jewish Division admitted this week to the Israeli Haaretz that it is “actually the Jewish Division that exploits the EDL.”*

As we are trying to recover from the devastating influence of the infamous ‘Labour friends of Israel’ and while becoming accustomed to the unethical impact of the “Conservative Friends of Israel” that already has succeeded in amending British universal jurisdiction, we are also becoming used to seeing the Israeli flag wave at us in extremist right wing demonstrations. Clearly, this is far from being a big surprise. The continuum between apartheid Israel, European Islamophobia, Melanie Philips’ Londonistan and Nick Cohen's anti Islam is apparent and transparent.

I learned from Haaretz’ expose of the Jewish Division that its leader Roberta Moore, 39, is a Brazilian Jew born in Rio de Janeiro, she once lived in Israel and now resides in north London. In the following video you can watch Moore preaching Islamophobia while covering her body with an Israeli flag.

Moore told Haaretz “We believe that if we call the enemy by his name, we will be able to fight him. We single out organizations that discriminate against Jews and Zionist organizations, and try to explain there is no difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism...The problem is that they (Muslims) are being brainwashed and believe they are superior to everyone else. They have the right to think that, but don't try to force your opinions on me and tell me the clothes I wear or the music I listen to are bad. Or that my beliefs are inferior and I must not do this or that. Why do we women have to cover anything?"

Interestingly enough, I also live in Britain, in London, probably not too far from Moore. I am a successful musician and a public figure and I can never recall Muslims trying to suggest to me what music to play or what clothes to put on. Astonishingly enough, I can recall Jack Straw (former British Home Secretary) suggesting to Muslim women what to wear and how to appear in public. Moreover, as far as I am aware, it was actually Jews, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the so called ‘Jewish anti Zionists’ who pathetically and unsuccessfully tried to block my music and writing. Also, it is Jews rather than Muslims who believe in being chosen.

If Jews like Moore believe themselves to be ordinary, why don’t they join the EDL as equal members? If racist Jews are as ordinary as other bigots, why do they operate within a racially orientated cell (‘Jewish division’)? The answer is simple, the Jewish Division is a continuation of Zionist supremacy and as Moore admitted, it is there to “Exploit the EDL”* or just to take it for a little Zionist ride.

“Islam is not a religion, but a cult, it has all the features of a cult” Moore emphasizes. Moore is obviously deluded. Not only is Islam a religion, it is also driven by an aspiration for peace (salam) universalism and humanism. It is practiced by a Billion people. It cannot be a cult or considered as such. However Jewishness (as opposed to Judaism) which Moore clearly succumbs to, contains all the elements of a cult. Jewishness, is a marginal ideology, it refers to a set of beliefs or practices that are reasonably considered strange from a universalist and humanist point of view. It is also a racially orientated supremacist ideology. It has even set a list of barbarian rituals that are known as the Zionist practice.

Moore is obviously a shallow human being and I won’t spend any energy debating her. However, the fact that she is proudly and openly preaching hate in Britain under the Jewish banner and carrying the Israeli flag is very significant. I guess that we should encourage her never to stop. Not only does she expose the true face of Jewish tribal politics, she also brings to light the true ideological impetus behind Islamophobia in Britain.

But there is another interesting aspects in Moore’s political attitude. Considering that Moore is an immigrant in this country, I find it slightly puzzling to hear her calling to Muslims to “get out of our land… go back to your home”. I guess that by ‘our land ’ she is referring to Britain. I wonder when did Britain become ‘her land’? And if it is her land, why is it her land more than other millions of Muslim immigrants who settled in this country like Moore and myself?

Moore offers an answer "they (the Muslims) are unwilling to respect the laws of the place.” Moore must have failed to gather the obvious fact that Britain has aspired to multi ethnic and multi cultural ideologies. It is actually Moore and her Jewish followers who fail to respect the British value system. She reverts to the most repulsive Zionist rhetoric “Let them go back home. They have enough places (to go to).” I wonder how would Moore react if someone suggests to her to consider going back to where she comes from, or where she belongs.

Interestingly enough, Moore has many lands. England is her land. She doesn’t want Muslims here. But she also considers Israel to be her land. "I don't understand why the Israeli flag doesn't fly over Al-Aqsa [Mosque in Jerusalem]," Moore remarks. "That mosque is on our land." Seemingly, Moore like many other Diaspora Jews ‘owns’ very many lands.

I guess it will not be long before the English Defence League gathers the true motivation behind the newly emerging Jewish phony patriotism. The EDL claims to show support for the British armed forces. The EDL may want to find out what is the current representation of the Jewish community within the armed forces. The EDL better also check out how many Jews have given their life for Britain in Iraq, a criminal war that was enthusiastically cheered by Jewish Chronicle writers such as David Aaronovitch and Nick Cohen.

If Moore and her followers within the Jewish Division were slightly attentive to Jewish history they would gather that Jewish tribal patriotism has always been exposed for what it is: Judeo centric tribalism.

(*)“They think the league is exploiting us, while it is really we who initiated the Jewish division. If anything, we are exploiting them (the EDL) .” (Roberta Moore, Haaretz 13.7.10)

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Haiti: Mass Misery Under Imperialist Occupation

Workers Vanguard No. 962
30 July 2010

All U.S./UN Troops Out!

In the six months since the devastating earthquake struck the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, killing some 250,000 people and destroying 100,000 homes, the suffering of the Haitian masses has only deepened. A week after the quake, imperialist occupiers led by the U.S. signaled what they had in store for the Haitian masses when police in a joint UN-Haitian operation fired into crowded prison cells in the southern city of Les Cayes, killing at least 12.

While the last of the 20,000 U.S. troops that were dispatched to Haiti in the guise of a “relief effort” have been withdrawn, 500 American National Guardsmen are stationed there. The country remains under military occupation by the UN force known as MINUSTAH, which has run Haiti since 2004. Headed by the Brazilian military, more than 10,000 UN troops and police are imposing “order” on a starving, homeless population, brutally repressing social protest and rebuilding the machinery of repression on behalf of Haiti’s imperialist masters.

The earthquake’s death toll was itself a product of over a century of imperialist depredation that left the country totally exposed to the quake’s impact, as shoddily built buildings in the teeming city collapsed. Today, some 1.5 million people are still living in makeshift tents—often no more than four sticks and bedsheets—in camps in and around the capital. With virtually no means of transport, many of these people are hours from the city center. In this utterly impoverished country, where the unemployment rate reached as high as 80 percent before the quake, this means that few have even the hope of being able to find any work.

People who had sought refuge on golf courses, parks or other facilities were forcibly relocated to barren land where there are no basic services like water and sanitation, where the dust and heat are unbearable and where a strong wind could easily destroy their shelters. More than 1,200 families camped in the Sylvio Cator soccer stadium had their tents destroyed without warning by the Haitian National Police and were moved out at gunpoint. People are in deadly fear of the hurricane season, with many living precariously on eroded hillsides that could easily be wiped out by a mudslide. Only a few of the promised hurricane-resistant shelters have been built. Other people have fled to the abject poverty of the countryside.

Some elements associated with the occupation have swooped down like vultures to reap the spoils of “reconstruction.” In the town of Ganthier, 18 miles east of the capital, private developers have laid claim to state land that has been used to grow food for 80 years, driving peasants off with bulldozers. Those who resisted were beaten and arrested, along with the mayor.

The Haitian Parliament has officially ceded power over aid money and reconstruction to the Interim Commission for the Reconstruction of Haiti, headed by Bill Clinton, placing control of what exists of an economy in this shattered country in the hands of the IMF, World Bank and other imperialist agencies. These are the same forces that have repeatedly imposed drastic austerity measures on the Haitian population while enforcing privatization and other “free trade” policies that have ruined local agriculture and most of what little industrial production had existed. The “development” that Clinton & Co. talk about centers on expanding garment and other sweatshop production. Workers in those shops are paid starvation wages, often less than the official minimum salary of roughly $3 a day.

Half a year after the quake, only some 2 percent of pledged reconstruction aid has been delivered and less than 5 percent of the rubble has been removed. Aid was never the point of the U.S. intervention into Haiti. The International Executive Committee of the International Communist League issued an April 27 statement repudiating our initial position justifying the U.S. imperialist troop presence as essential to aid, a social-patriotic betrayal of Marxist principle. We wrote: “The U.S. military invasion was designed to provide a ‘humanitarian’ face-lift to bloody U.S. imperialism and was aimed at securing U.S. military control in Haiti and reasserting American imperialist domination over the Caribbean” (WV No. 958, 7 May).

U.S. military authorities who took command of the Port-au-Prince airport prevented the World Food Program from landing cargos of food, medicine and water for two days, diverting their flights “so that the United States could land troops and equipment, and lift Americans and other foreigners to safety” (New York Times, 17 January). At the same time, the Obama administration ordered a naval blockade to prevent Haitians from fleeing to the U.S., with Air Force flights broadcasting a Creole-language warning from Haiti’s ambassador to the U.S. that American forces would “intercept” anyone fleeing by boat and “send you back home.”

We demand an end to the UN occupation of Haiti and call for all imperialist troops and police forces out now! We call for full citizenship rights for all Haitians and other refugees and immigrants who have made it to the U.S. No deportations!

Neocolonial Haiti: Subjugation and Devastation

For 200 years, the Haitian masses have been paying in blood for the revolution carried out under Toussaint L’Ouverture against the French colonial slavocracy. Culminating in the creation of the first independent black state in the modern era, the Haitian Revolution inspired slave revolts across the Americas and met with a frenzy of racist hostility from both France and the then-slaveowning U.S. In return for recognition by France, Haiti was compelled to compensate the former slaveowners in an amount measuring $20 billion at today’s prices. The country remains hideously impoverished to this day.

The occupation this January was the fourth carried out by the U.S. in the past century. U.S. troops occupied Haiti from 1915-1934, drowning an anti-imperialist revolt in blood. The U.S. installed and then propped up a series of brutal, corrupt dictatorships, most infamously that of François “Papa Doc” Duvalier beginning in 1957. Duvalier organized the Tonton Macoutes paramilitary thugs and oversaw the killing of 50,000 of his opponents. The bloodletting continued under his son “Baby Doc,” who went on to face a popular revolt that caused him to flee the country in 1986, when others in his cabal took over.

The massive social discontent eventually led to the election of radical populist priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide, champion of the Lavalas movement, by a two-thirds majority in 1990. Virtually the entire left internationally gave this bourgeois politician political support. In contrast, we warned: “Aristide will either play the role of groveling instrument of the Haitian bourgeoisie and the U.S. imperialist overlords or he will be swept away in a reactionary crackdown aimed at decisively disciplining the pitilessly oppressed population” (WV No. 517, 4 January 1991). In fact, both things happened.

While the Aristide government tried to carry out such reforms as raising the miserable minimum wage, as a bourgeois regime it served the class interests of the ruling elite of sweatshop owners and landowners and their imperialist patrons. Before his election Aristide often denounced U.S. imperialism’s role in Haiti. But once in office he welcomed USAID and IMF assistance, boasting that he would “restore the World Bank’s confidence in Haiti.”

Seven months after taking office, Aristide was overthrown by the man he appointed as military chief, Raoul Cedras, who established a regime of military terror and forced Aristide into exile. Some 2,000 people were killed in the immediate aftermath. Thousands fled to the U.S. in rickety boats only to be imprisoned in Guantánamo. In 1994, following a starvation embargo imposed by the U.S. under Clinton, American Marines invaded the country and reinstalled Aristide at bayonet point.

The condition for Aristide’s return was that he agree to a drastic austerity program, privatization of state-owned industry, massive layoffs in the public sector and the virtual abolition of import tariffs. All this he did, inducing the collapse of Haiti’s economy while setting the police, supplemented by gangs, against strikers and others. Nonetheless, his Washington overlords were not satisfied. After an interim regime under René Préval—the current nominal president—Aristide was re-elected in 2000 only to face a U.S.-led destabilization campaign. To Washington’s chagrin, Aristide developed ties with the Cuban deformed workers state, which has provided crucial medical personnel for Haiti, and with Venezuela under bourgeois populist Hugo Chávez. In 2004, “peacekeeping” troops led mainly by the U.S., Canada and France landed in Haiti and Aristide was whisked out on a U.S.-chartered jet to the Central African Republic. (He later moved to South Africa.)

Ever since the 2004 coup, the UN’s MINUSTAH troops have backed violent assaults by the Haitian police on poor communities and on demonstrations demanding Aristide’s return. UN forces have participated in a number of “anti-gang” raids on Cité Soleil, an Aristide bastion, and other slum neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince. Attacks in December 2004 and December 2006, with hundreds of troops moving into Cité Soleil by land, sea and air, left scores of residents dead. During hunger riots in 2008, UN troops fired on crowds, killing several demonstrators.

The imperialist intervention undertaken by the Obama White House shored up this bloody occupation force while also demonstrating to the world that the U.S. continues to regard the Caribbean basin as an “American lake.” Under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, the U.S. has expanded its military presence in Colombia, where there are now seven U.S. bases. The government of Costa Rica this month authorized the entry of 46 U.S. warships and 7,000 Marines, while the U.S.-backed government in Honduras opened a new base for American use in April. The U.S. military buildup in the region is a particular threat to the Cuban bureaucratically deformed workers state. We defend Cuba unconditionally against U.S. imperialism while fighting for a proletarian political revolution against the nationalist Stalinist bureaucracy. We demand: All U.S. military forces and bases out of the Caribbean! U.S. out of Guantánamo! U.S. imperialists: Hands off the world!

Anger at Occupation Grows

Thousands of Haitians fed up by foreign occupation and Préval’s puppet government have staged protests recently in the face of brutal repression. Demonstrations in May in Port-au-Prince brought out an estimated 30,000 people demanding free elections, a role in reconstruction efforts and the return of Aristide. Demonstrators have also called for ending the ban of his Fanmi Lavalas party, which is barred from running in the national elections scheduled for November. We defend the right of people to vote for whomever they want. We demand the right of Aristide to return to Haiti and oppose the ban on Fanmi Lavalas, despite our political opposition as Marxists to this populist party.

On May 4, after students at the State University Ethnology College in the capital held a series of protests against the occupation, MINUSTAH troops stormed the campus, firing tear gas and rubber bullets and arresting militant student leader Frantz Mathieu Junior. Faced with the growing unrest, the UN is sending 680 additional foreign policemen to augment the MINUSTAH force. The international workers movement must demand: Free all victims of military/police repression!

Unrest has spread to the countryside. On June 4, 10,000 peasants protested against the American agribusiness giant Monsanto, which had donated 475 tons of maize. They fear having to buy new seeds from Monsanto every year at prices they cannot afford. Haitian peasants have bitter memories of previous instances when the U.S. forced policies down their throats that ruined their livelihoods. After the Clinton White House compelled Haiti to drop tariffs on imports, subsidized U.S. rice flooded the Haitian market, bankrupting many peasants. Earlier, the U.S. had pressured the Haitian government to wipe out the Creole pigs indigenous to the country on the pretext that they might be infected with swine flu. The U.S. substituted its own pigs, which could not survive the Haitian climate.

The only way out of the misery imposed on neocolonial Haiti lies through proletarian socialist revolution throughout the Caribbean and, crucially, in the North American imperialist heartland. But the social base for workers revolution is exceedingly narrow in a country as destitute and ground down as Haiti. Struggles by the Haitian masses against imperialist depredation must be linked to class and social struggle in the neighboring Dominican Republic, where Haitians are a sizable component of the proletariat, and elsewhere in the Caribbean. It is especially crucial that workers in the belly of the U.S. imperialist beast—and in Canada as well—wage class struggle against their “own” capitalist rulers.

Our perspective—for a workers and peasants government in Haiti as part of a socialist federation of the Caribbean—is inextricably linked to the fight for the revolutionary overthrow of U.S. imperialism. In diaspora, Haitians, Jamaicans and others can play a crucial role as a bridge to the rest of the American proletariat, particularly to other black workers. The key is to build revolutionary workers parties—sections of a reforged Fourth International—to lead the workers in this struggle.

Monday, 16 August 2010

China Overtakes Japan as World's Second-Biggest Economy

By Bloomberg News - Aug 16, 2010 12:40 PM GMT

China GDP Surpasses Japan

China surpassed Japan as the world’s second-largest economy last quarter, capping the nation’s three- decade rise from Communist isolation to emerging superpower.

Japan’s nominal gross domestic product for the second quarter totaled $1.288 trillion, less than China’s $1.337 trillion, the Japanese Cabinet Office said today. Japan remained bigger in the first half of 2010, the government agency said. Japan’s annual GDP is $5.07 trillion, while China’s is more than $4.9 trillion.

China led the world out of last year’s global recession with an economy that’s more than 90-times bigger than when leader Deng Xiaoping ditched hard-line Communist policies in favor of free-market reforms in 1978. The country of 1.3 billion people will overtake the U.S., where annual GDP is about $14 trillion, as the world’s largest economy by 2027, according to Goldman Sachs Group Inc. chief economist Jim O’Neill.

China’s surpassing of Japan “is a marker of its increasingly dominant role in the global economy,” said Eswar Prasad, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and former head of the China division at the International Monetary Fund. “The resilience of China’s growth during the crisis enabled a number of other countries, particularly commodity-exporting economies, to ride on its coattails.”

The benchmark Shanghai stock index rose 2.1 percent at the 3 p.m. close today, climbing the most this month.

Tricky Comparison

China overtook the U.S. last year as the biggest automobile market and Germany as the largest exporter. The nation is the world’s No. 1 buyer of iron ore and copper and the second- biggest importer of crude oil, and has underpinned demand for exports by its Asian neighbors.

While China’s output was also larger in the fourth quarter of 2009, Japan’s GDP rebounded to exceed China’s in the first quarter, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News. According to IMF data using purchasing-power-parity calculations to adjust for exchange-rate differences, China overtook Japan in 2001.

Quarterly comparisons between China and Japan are “a little tricky because they do not take account of different seasonal patterns between the two countries,” said David Cohen, head of Asian forecasting at Action Economics in Singapore.

China’s economy is cooling as the government trims credit growth from last year’s record $1.4 trillion and discourages multiple-home purchases to cool surging property prices. July industrial output rose the least in 11 months, retail sales growth eased and new loans climbed less than estimated. China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. said last month that its crude-oil processing increased at a slower pace in the second quarter as fuel demand faltered.

Property Collapse

The country’s property market is beginning a “collapse” that will hit the nation’s banking system, Kenneth Rogoff, a Harvard University professor and former chief economist of the IMF, said July 6.

Still, China is on course to overtake the U.S. as the world’s largest economy around 2020, PricewaterhouseCoopers said in a January report.

With China’s growth surging 10.3 percent in the second quarter from a year earlier and Japan expanding 2 percent, the “gap is going to widen” in future, said Shen Jianguang, a Hong Kong-based economist at Mizuho Securities Asia Ltd. “It is not likely that Japan will retake the No. 2 spot given the likely growth rates.”

Four of the world’s top 10 companies by market capitalization are from China, including PetroChina Co., Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd., China Mobile Ltd. and China Construction Bank Corp.

Agricultural Bank

Agricultural Bank of China Ltd. boosted the size of its initial public offering to $22.1 billion this month after selling more stock in Shanghai, making it the world’s largest first-time share sale. The IPO made the nation home to four of the world’s 10 biggest banks by market value, half a decade after the country’s first major state-owned lender went public.

China may be the biggest IPO market in 2010 as companies are likely to raise 500 billion yuan ($74 billion) in Shanghai and Shenzhen, PricewaterhouseCoopers forecast last month.

Since introducing free-market policies, China has lifted 300 million citizens out of poverty, according to the United Nations. The country remains a developing nation, with its per capita gross national income ranked 127th in the world at $2,940 at the end of 2008, behind Angola and Azerbaijan, according to the World Bank.

Cultural Revolution

In the first three decades of Communist Party rule before Deng took power, China’s economy was hobbled by the chaos of the Great Leap Forward, a failed attempt to transform the agrarian nation into an industrial powerhouse, and the Cultural Revolution, a decade of political upheaval led by Mao Zedong’s Red Guards.

“China has a large population, a weak economic foundation, relatively few resources and a large poverty population, which remains our basic situation,” Ma Jiantang, head of China’s statistics bureau, said in January. “Therefore, while we take note of our expanding size of economy and enhancing economic strength, we should also have a sober understanding that China remains a developing nation.”

China’s future influence on the global economy will increase, said Shen at Mizuho. The country’s “double-digit” expansion will contribute a third of global growth this year, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said in March.

“Japan had a huge impact on the global commodities market and foreign direct investment flows in the 1980s” as China is doing now, Shen said. “The major difference is that China’s population is 10-times bigger than Japan’s, its economy is still growing at above 9 percent per year, and Chinese investors are just beginning to invest abroad. You can imagine that China’s impact will be so much bigger.”

--Kevin Hamlin, Li Yanping. With assistance from Marco Babic and Sunil Jagtiani in Singapore, Russell Ward and Keiko Ujikane in Tokyo and Zhang Shidong in Shanghai. Editors: Stephanie Phang, Cherian Thomas

To contact the Bloomberg News staff on this story: Kevin Hamlin in Beijing on

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Superheroes of today are 'bad role models'

Leading child psychologist claims characters such as Iron Man are selling adolescent boys 'a narrow version of masculinity'

* David Batty
* Guardian Monday 16 August 2010

Iron Man Professor Lamb says superheroes like Iron Man 'exploit women, flaunt bling and convey their manhood with high-powered guns'. Photograph: PR

They thwart dastardly supervillains and have saved the world countless times over but macho superheroes now face a determined new foe in the guise of a mild-mannered child psychologist.

Professor Sharon Lamb, from the University of Massachusetts in Boston, accuses the new generation of superheroes, exemplified by Robert Downey Junior's playboy millionnaire Iron Man, of being bad role models for young boys.

Unlike conventional superheroes such as Superman, who stood for justice, fairness and decency, the modern macho superheroes portray a negative masculinity, characterised by mindless aggression and rampant sexism. Lamb, who surveyed 674 boys aged four to 18, claimed these hardnosed heroes may be damaging the social skills of teenagers and even affecting their performance at school.

"There is a big difference in the movie superhero of today and the comic book superhero of yesterday," she said.

"Today's superhero is too much like an action hero who participates in non-stop violence; he's aggressive, sarcastic, and rarely speaks to the virtue of doing good for humanity," she said.

"These men, like Iron Man, exploit women, flaunt bling and convey their manhood with high-powered guns."

In contrast, Lamb said the boys could look up to the old-style heroes such as Superman, "because outside of their costumes they were real people with real problems and many vulnerabilities".Lamb told the Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association in San Diego, California that adolescent boys were being sold a "narrow version of masculinity" just when they were most vulnerable and trying to forge an identity for themselves.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Afghan war logs reveal U.S. death squad’s crimes

By Gene Clancy

Published Aug 13, 2010 10:07 AM

A top secret unit of U.S. Special Forces called Task Force 373 set out on June 17, 2007, in the Patika province of Aghanistan to purposely commit a war crime. Task force 373 is a death squad organized by the NATO coalition in Afghanistan to hunt down targets for death or detention without trial. Details of more than 2,000 alleged leaders of the Taliban and al-Qaida are held on a “kill or capture” list, known as Jpel for Joint Prioritized Effects List.

On that occasion, the target was a man named Abu Laith al-Libi. Task Force 373 believed he was hiding in a remote village in Patika province. The unit was armed with a new weapon known as HIMARS — High Mobility Artillery Rocket System — a pod of six missiles on the back of a small truck.

According to Pentagon war logs recently released by WikiLeaks, TF 373’s plan was to launch five rockets at targets in the village of Nangar Khel where Libi was supposedly hiding and then send in ground troops. The rockets failed to find Libi but killed six men TF 373 claimed were Taliban fighters.

Then, when troops approached the rubble that was once a school, they recorded “initial assessment of 7 x NC KIA,” which translates as “seven non-combatants killed in action.” All of them were children. One of them was still alive: “The Med TM immediately cleared debris from the mouth and performed CPR.” After 20 minutes, the child died. (WikiLeaks War Logs quoted in The Guardian, July 25)

The U.S.-led coalition issued a press release claiming that troops “had surveillance on the compound all day and saw no indications that there were children inside the building.” The release also claimed that Taliban fighters, who supposedly were in the compound, had used the children as human shields.

The bodies of the six “Taliban” were in a completely different building than the school where the children were found. The release suggested that coalition forces had attacked the compound because of “nefarious activity” there, when the reality was they had gone there to kill or capture Libi.

The press release made no mention at all of Libi, nor of the failure of the mission (although that was revealed later by NBC News). Crucially, it failed to record that TF 373 had fired five rockets, destroying the school and other buildings and killing seven children, before anybody fired on them. This was a mission to murder.

The internal report was marked not only “secret” but also “Noforn,” that is, not to be shared with non-U.S. members of the coalition. The wording of the report was very specific: “The knowledge that TF 373 conducted a HIMARS strike must be protected.” And it was. That is, until the recent release of 91,000 secret Pentagon cables by a whistleblower inside the U.S. intelligence establishment.

‘Sources and methods’ of imperialist occupation

Both the Obama administration and the Pentagon have opened a virulent attack on those who released the Afghan War Logs. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, used a Pentagon press conference on July 29 to vilify WikiLeaks and its editor, Julian Assange, while vowing to crack down on anyone involved in making the documents public.

Additional charges have been filed against SPC Bradley Manning, who is already accused of releasing a video showing a massacre in Iraq. The Army recently moved Manning from Kuwait to Quantico, Va., where it is holding him in prison.

According to the Pentagon brass, the Afghan war logs’ release has endangered NATO troops and Afghan collaborators because they reveal the “sources and methods” of U.S. intelligence units. The generals don’t seem to worry that using death squads against the people of a country that they illegally occupy is a direct violation of the Geneva Conventions and international law. Or that the Afghan people already know from bitter first-hand experience how these horrific war crimes have been committed — and by whom.

What the brass really worry about is that the leaks will undercut political support for the war at home and around the world.

Another slaughter, followed by torture

Another potential war crime was the slaughter of Jan. 12, 2008. After tracking the movements for 24 hours of the man ranked seventh on the Jpel list, Qari Baryal, the coalition established that he was holding a large meeting with other men in a compound in Pashkari. The command sent planes that dropped 500-pound bombs, then ran five strafing runs to shoot those fleeing the scene.

The report records that some 70 people ran to the compound and started digging into the rubble on which there were “pools of blood.” Subsequent reports suggest that the targeted Baryal survived. There was no mention of how many people died or had been wounded.

Numerous logs show Jpel targets captured and transferred to a special prison, known as Btif, the Bagram Theatre Internment Facility. No logs indicate that prisoners were charged or tried. Previous press reports suggest that prisoners have spent years with no legal process in communal cages inside vast old airplane hangars.

Considering how the U.S. ran intelligence operations at Abu Ghraib, Iraq and Guantanamo, it’s likely that detainees are tortured. By December 2009, a total of 4,288 prisoners, some as young as 16, had been held at Btif, with 757 still in custody.

Who are TF 373?

The leaked war logs show that Task Force 373 uses at least three bases in Afghanistan: in Kabul, Kandahar and Khost. Although TF 373 operates alongside Special Forces from Afghanistan and other coalition nations, it appears to be drawing its own troops from the 7th Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg, N.C. It travels on missions in Chinook and Cobra helicopters flown by the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, based at Hunter Army Airfield, Ga.

The release of the Afghan war logs can help mobilize anti-war forces, but it’s important to seize the opportunity it presents. We must redouble our efforts to stop the illegal war and occupation in Afghanistan and bring the troops home. It is encouraging that on Aug. 8 more than 100 anti-war demonstrators gathered outside the Quantico base demanding “Free Bradley Manning” and that the war criminals, especially those at the highest level, be held accountable.

Articles copyright 1995-2010 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011
Support independent news DONATE

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Jimmy Reid, saviour of Clyde shipyards, dies aged 78

'Commanding figure of great humanity' led work-in that forced Tory government to keep Upper Clyde Shipbuilders open

* Severin Carrell, Scotland correspondent
*, Wednesday 11 August 2010 11.22 BST
Jimmy Reid in 2005 when he switched from Labour to the Scottish National party. Photograph: Maurice Mcdonald/PA

Jimmy Reid, who as a Glasgow union leader led a work-in to resist the closure of the Clyde shipyards, died last night aged 78 after a long illness.

The occupation at Upper Clyde Shipbuilders (UCS) in 1971 successfully thwarted proposals by the Conservative government of the time to close the yards with the loss of 6,000 jobs. The workers' action led to a substantial reinvestment programme that saved three yards from closure.

Alex Salmond, the first minister, Scottish National party leader and friend of Reid, said he would miss his "wise counsel" and humour, while Scotland had lost "a commanding figure of great humanity".

"Jimmy Reid was Clyde-built," Salmond said. "He has been Scotland's great rallying figure over the last four decades and was one of the few Scottish political figures who can genuinely say that they provoked real change for the better in society – always addressing both a Scottish and international audience."

Gordon Brown said Reid's death was a loss to the labour movement. He first met Reid in the early 1970s and had "admired his commitment and determination to the cause of social justice ever since," Brown said.

He added: "Jimmy will always be remembered for the inspired and disciplined way he fought for the shipyard industry and the fact there is still a shipbuilding industry in Scotland today is in large measure because of the inspirational campaigns that he waged."

Edward Heath's government had ruled that shipbuilding had to survive without state subsidies and refused to keep the UCS yards open. Reid was determined to prove the businesses were still viable.

Reid and his fellow shop stewards Jimmy Airlie and Sammy Barr ran the work-in and helped manage the UCS yards as an alternative to an all-out strike, insisting on strict self-discipline from the workforce.

In a speech to the occupying shipbuilders, shown across the UK and abroad, he said: "We are not going to strike. We are not even having a sit-in strike.

"Nobody and nothing will come in and nothing will go out without our permission. And there will be no hooliganism, there will be no vandalism, there will be no bevvying because the world is watching us."

The campaign, which became a model for trade unionists, won celebrity support from John Lennon and Billy Connolly before Heath's government backed down in February 1972. The government kept two yards and sold a third, injecting £35m into yards at Govan, Scotstoun and Linthouse.

In a BBC interview in 2002 Reid said the occupation was "the only logical effective form" of opposition to closure. "Strike action was unthinkable. We would have left the factory, the yards, and that would have delighted the government because they would have put padlocks on the gates. So that was out.

"We did consider a second strike but I reckon it was far too negative that, and we had an enormous order book, plenty of work and the logical thing was, why don't we work-in, refuse to accept redundancy and work."

Reid, a former communist, had been elected rector of Glasgow university in 1971 and went on to stand for parliament for Labour at the 1979 general election. In 2005 he switched allegiance to the Scottish National party after becoming disillusioned with Tony Blair's government. He had a suspected stroke in 2002.

After failing to win a Westminster seat Reid switched to journalism, becoming a respected broadcaster who hosted a current affairs series for BBC Scotland called the Reid Report, and writing a newspaper column. He won two Baftas for his Reid About the USSR documentary series.

Iain Gray, the Scottish Labour leader, said Reid was an icon in the Scottish trade union movement. Reid's rectorial address at Glasgow university was published in full on the cover of the New York Times, he said.

It was "one of the finest political speeches of the 1970s. His rhetorical rejection of the 'rat race' and his call to the higher principles of our common humanity has not faded but rings louder as the years pass", Gray said.

"In the best tradition of the Scottish public intellect he gloried in music, literature and our common creed of football. He was a family man who will be missed terribly by those closest to him. Scotland will miss his voice, his testament to the worst and the best of our recent past and his hope for our future."

Reid leaves his wife, Joan, three daughters and three grandchildren.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Coalition declares class war

FRFI 216 August/September 2010

This is the declaration of class war. It has to be resisted by millions of working people, young and old, in work and unemployed, determined to halt the destruction and privatisation of our public services’.

The arrogance and self-confidence of the new ConDem coalition government was highlighted by George Osborne’s emergency Budget presented to Parliament on 22 June 2010. It amounted to a wholesale assault on the public sector. No less than the Financial Times chief economics commentator, Martin Wolf, was driven to say that ‘nothing in the election campaign could have prepared the British public for this bloodbath’. It was a declaration of class war. DAVID YAFFE looks at this remarkable turn of events.

It is important to understand the Labour Party’s role in this development. Just as the Labour government began the attack on the public sector in the mid-1970s and laid the ground for Margaret Thatcher’s neo-liberal counter-revolution, so the Labour government’s planned deficit reduction in its pre-election March Budget opened the way for the ConDem’s coalition programme to dismantle and privatise state welfare over the next parliament.

It was Prime Minister James Callaghan who told the Labour Party conference in 1976: ‘We must get back to fundamentals…We used to think that you could spend your way out of recession, and increase employment by cutting taxes and boosting government spending. I tell you in all honesty that that option no longer exists…’ The Callaghan government opened the way to Thatcherism by complying with the conditions of an IMF loan to defend the pound. It set monetary targets and cut public spending and wages.[1]

In the third week of 2010, Labour Chancellor Alistair Darling told the Financial Times that he would order his ministers to start work on the most swingeing cuts in public spending in a generation. Halving the public sector deficit in four years, he said, was ‘non-negotiable’. This was confirmed in his March Budget. For the Labour Party, as for any other ruling class party in power in this country, the interests of the international markets, the financial services sector and the City of London are the unquestionable priorities.[2] It should be no surprise that the ConDem coalition felt confident enough on coming to power to slash state welfare and public spending even further.

The crisis of British capitalism and the public sector deficit

At the end of August 2009, Lord Turner, the head of the Financial Services Authority (FSA) and a former banker, described some of the innovative activities of the City of London, such as credit default swaps, as ‘socially useless’. He said that the financial services sector had ‘grown beyond a socially reasonable size’ and the City had become a destabilising factor in the British economy. These were dangerous thoughts given the importance of financial services and the City to British capitalism and the Labour government’s priority that the City of London remain a centre of world finance, the financial arm of British imperialism. Lord Turner’s remarks were very quickly drowned out by an ideological assault on the public sector, directed at this stage not at public services as such, for which there is massive public support throughout the country, but at ‘unsustainable’ public sector borrowing. Suddenly the most dangerous threat to the British economy was not the bloated financial sector, but the debt of the public sector.

This was given ideological expression through an orchestrated campaign in the media with politicians of all persuasions rapidly and willingly following this lead. What followed was almost a public auction by the main political parties over the cuts in public spending necessary to tackle the ‘unsustainable’ public sector deficit.[3] The main difference between the Labour and Conservative parties revolved essentially around the starting date of the cuts, with Labour arguing in its March Budget that cutting too soon, before April 2011, would drive the economy back into recession and the Conservatives insisting on immediate deficit reduction to retain the confidence of the financial markets. So powerful, however, was the ideological offensive on public sector borrowing that Ipsos Mori, a market research company, was able to report that while in March 2010 the number opposing the Conservative strategy was double those in favour of it, by the end of June this had radically changed, with 44% backing swift deficit reduction and 35% against (Gary Younge The Guardian 19 July 2010).

It is necessary to contest this ideological offensive against state spending. The economic crisis has its roots in the overaccumulation of capital in the main capitalist countries, in the lack of profitable investment opportunities globally for capital, which has led to growing rivalry between the main capitalist powers for the spoils of imperialist plunder and super-exploitation of the vast majority of countries of the world. The speculative and parasitic activities of the financial corporations in the main imperialist countries are the necessary product of this crisis of global capitalism. This is why none of the main capitalist countries will take seriously measures to curb the large banking corporations. At the end of June 2010 at the G20 summit the banks were ‘let off the hook’: intense lobbying by the financial sector led to a delay in introducing rules to force banks to hold more capital. Plans to implement tough measures this year were shelved and governments were given leeway to introduce them in their own time.

As FRFI has repeatedly pointed out, it is the particular parasitic character of British capitalism – its reliance on the earnings of its overseas assets, particularly its bloated and usurious banking sector, and the ever growing importance of financial and business services in the domestic economy – that made it one of the imperialist countries most affected by the international financial crisis. At the start of this crisis, banking assets were five times Britain’s GDP. More than two years into the crisis (2009), Britain’s foreign investment was a remarkable 6.25 times GDP, with the usurious and parasitic transactions of UK banks accounting for more than 66% of these investments, equivalent to around four times Britain’s GDP.[4]

The speculative activities of the financial corporations and the uncontrolled lending that fuelled unprecedented property booms in the main capitalist countries led to the biggest financial meltdown in history. The capitalist system survived this process because the state underwrote the debts of the banks and financial institutions on a scale never seen before. The rapid rise in state borrowing and increased public spending was necessary not only to prevent capitalist economies from falling into even deeper recession, but also to ensure the survival of the imperialist banks and financial institutions. In the case of the UK, total government gross debt was 44.1% of GDP in 2007 and had risen to 68.2% in 2009. The US saw a rise from 62.1% of GDP to 83.2%, Germany from 65.0% to 72.5%, France from 63.8% to 77.4% and Japan from 187.7% to 217.5% over the same period.[5]

The debate about when and how much to cut public borrowing is an ideological diversion. It is little more than a cover for the ruling class as it prepares a massive attack on the living standards of working people in a brutal attempt to lay the foundation for resolving this crisis of imperialism.

Declaration of intent – the Budget

‘An admirably tough-minded statement of intent’ declared The Economist (24 June 2010), the house journal of the British ruling class, reporting on ConDem Chancellor George Osborne’s emergency Budget. The international markets likewise approved, with both the pound and government bonds rising. Osborne claimed that this was a fair and progressive budget with everyone paying something but the people at the bottom end of the income scale paying proportionally less – the supposed result of Liberal Democrat influence on the coalition government. This brazen lie was soon exposed by just a cursory examination of the Budget which brutally cut public spending, slashing tens of thousands of jobs, and cut wages while increasing taxes on consumption.

£113bn of spending cuts and tax rises, £4,300 a year on average for every household in the country, is to be imposed by 2014-15 as a result of measures taken in the Budget. This is an additional £40bn, comprising £32bn spending cuts and £8bn net tax rises, added to the £73bn announced by Labour in its March Budget before the general election. Public sector borrowing will fall from 10.1% of GDP this year to 1.1% of GDP in 2015-16. The current budget deficit will move into surplus in 2014-15 and the total public sector net debt of the UK will peak at 70.3% of GDP in 2013-14. IMF predictions for 2015, made before the additional cuts and tax rises in Osborne’s emergency Budget, show general gross government debt of the UK reaching 96.6% of GDP, significantly below that of the advanced capitalist countries as a whole at 110% of GDP ( So Osborne’s argument that the extreme nature of the UK’s deficit justified the savage measures in the emergency Budget has little credibility even on his own terms. Nor has his argument that the severe deficit reduction was necessary to prevent a bond market crisis.

Limited tax rises

Tax rises are by far the smaller component of the £113bn fiscal tightening in the Budget. The split overall, in­cluding measures in Labour’s March Budget, is 74% public spending cuts and 26% tax rises by 2015. The new tax changes will have a very unequal impact. The largest rise in revenue will come from the increase in VAT from 17.5% to 20%. This will raise £13.5bn a year by 2014-15. VAT accounts for nearly twice as much of the disposable income of the bottom 20% of households as those in the highest 20%. Lowering the rate of capital allowances for businesses will raise around £2.8bn. It will have a much bigger impact on manufacturing industry than financial and business services with capital allowances a much greater share of profits in the former than the latter. The levy on bank balance sheets, not unexpectedly, is token. It will raise around £2.4bn, less than half the £5-£8bn predicted. The coalition government has no plans to legislate to limit banker’s pay and bonuses. It will allow the banking corporations to regulate their own pay and bonuses to ‘regain public trust’.

Capital gains tax will be increased only to 28% for those paying the higher rate of income tax, letting wealthy property speculators and share­holders off the hook. It will remain at 18% for those paying basic income tax and 10% for ‘entrepreneurs’ for the first £5m of qualifying gains, up from £2m. This will raise less than £1bn.

Although Labour’s 1% national insur­ance increases for employees and employers will still go ahead from April 2011, the threshold at which employers start paying will go up from £110 to £131 a week, offsetting about two thirds of the rise and costing the government nearly £4bn. The corporation tax rate will be reduced from 28% to 24% over the next four years to the lowest level on record, at a cost of £4.1bn. It will almost certainly offset the bank levy for the larger banks.

Finally as a sop to Liberal Demo­crats for keeping on message with this thoroughly regressive budget, the income tax threshold for those on basic tax will rise by £1,000 to £7,475, child tax credits will increase by £150 a year for the poorer sections of the working class, and the state pension will be linked to earnings.

Cutting back the state

The state welfare budget will be cut by £11bn, more than a third of the £32bn additional spending cuts. Child benefit will be frozen for three years from 2011. Child trust funds are to be abolished from January 2011. All state benefits, apart from state pensions and pension credit, will rise in line with the consumer price index (CPI) instead of the retail price index (RPI). The RPI includes housing costs. The CPI in June was 3.2% and the RPI 5.0%. This means that the rise in benefits each year is intended to be significantly less than before. Housing benefit will be cut by 7% by introducing maximum limits for payments, among other changes. The National Housing Association has said that more than 750,000 people are in danger of losing their homes in the south-east because of these changes (The Guardian 23 July 2010). 1.8m people claiming disability living allowance will have to undergo new more stringent medical tests assessing their capability for work. Single parents will be expected to look for work when their youngest child goes to school. Health in pregnancy grants will be abolished next April and Sure Start maternity grants will be restricted to the first child. Most of these cuts will have a disproportionate impact on the poorer sections of the working class.

The income of better paid workers and the lower middle class will start to be squeezed. Tax credits for middle income families will be abolished, affecting 600,000 families earning more than £40,000 and less than £58,000. There will be a two year pay freeze for public sector workers earning more than £21,000.

The details of the most savage public spending cuts will be announced during the autumn spending review. From the Budget figures, departmental budgets will need to be cut on average by around 25%. However, according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS), the commitment to protect the health and overseas aid budgets and restrict the cuts in education and defence to around 10%, means that all other departments could face incredible cuts of the order of 33%. That this is the government’s intention can be seen in the decision of the Treasury to ask all government departments to draw up plans for cuts of between 25% and 40%. Such cuts will have a devastating impact on the jobs not only of the six million public sector workers but also on those 1.2 million private sector workers directly depen­dent on government contracts.

The intention of the government is brutally clear. The recently announced wholesale reorganisation of the health service, the abolition of health authorities and primary care trusts and the intention to turn Foundation Trust hospitals into privately run not-for-profit enterprises, are a prelude not only to cutting costs, but to accelerated privatisation of health services. A similar process is underway in education with the rapid expansion of Academy schools and the undermining of local education authorities. Cameron’s so-called ‘Big Society’ plan is simply a cover for this process. In introducing this in March this year he told us: ‘It includes a whole set of unifying approaches – breaking state monopolies, allowing charities, social enterprises and companies to provide public services…’. It is barely disguised neo-liberal cost-cutting of public services, preparing the ground for their privatisation and opening up new sources of profit for capital.

Together all these measures will hit the poorer sections of the working class much harder than the better off and the rich. According to the IFS, as a result of the emergency Budget, the incomes of the poorest fifth of the population will decline by 8%, those of the middle fifth by 4% and the richest fifth by less than 3% (Financial Times 23 June 2010). This is well before the savage cuts in public services from the autumn spending review really hit home. When they do, unemployment will grow rapidly to reach levels last experienced during the Thatcher years of the early 1980s. Millions of families who depend on public services in their day to day life will be abandoned. This is a declaration of class war. It has to be resisted by millions of working people, young and old, in work and unemployed, determined to halt the destruction and privatisation of our public services.

1 See David Yaffe ‘The Labour aristocracy and imperialism’ Part 4, FRFI 164 December 2001/January 2002. Issues of FRFI are available on our website at:

2 See David Yaffe ‘Banks on a roll as Britain staggers out of recession’, FRFI 213 February/March 2010 and ‘Deepest cuts for decades’, FRFI 214 April/May 2010.

3 See David Yaffe ‘Britain’s crisis: public services under attack’, FRFI 211 October/November 2009.

4 Recent figures from the ONS (first quarter 2010 release) on foreign investment have been substantially revised with the introduction of UK banks assets and liabilities in financial derivatives. They change the statistical series from 2007. In 2008, foreign assets of UK banks financial derivatives were a massive £4,040.2bn and took the foreign assets of the UK to £10,980.5bn or nearly 7.5 times the GDP. This is much higher than the figure given in previous articles in FRFI, before UK banks financial derivatives were included. The revised statistics have been used in the text above for the first time and show foreign assets were reduced in 2009, as the effect of the international crisis was accentuated. Future issues of FRFI will include the revised statistical series in more detail.

5 These debt statistics are given in terms of total government gross debt in order to make international comparisons. Statistics from In discussing the UK Budget changes below, the statistics are those given by the Office of National Statistics and refer to public sector net debt – public sector gross debt minus financial assets.